Monthly Archives: December 2007

Declining home sales driving negative cycle into 2008

New-Home Sales Fell to 12-Year Low in November

"…worst housing slump since the early 1990s. But buyers remain scarce, and analysts say the market may not bottom out until well into next year or even later.

Sales of new homes plunged to a 12-year low in November, an annual pace of just 647,000, the government said Friday. That is the slowest pace since April 1995, when sales ran at a pace of 621,000."

Month after The Real Estate Cafe signed it’s original lease on March 1, 1995.

Posted in Uncategorized

“St. Joseph Statue Buyback Program” launched for thousands of expired real estate listings

No this isn’t a parody from The Onion, it’s the real thing — maybe even God’s work.  Nearly a decade ago, the practice of burying St. Joseph statues upside down to sell real estate caused me to write "Beyond Superstition: Doing Justice to the "Just Man". When an article on the misguided practice became the most forwarded story in the Wall Street Journal eight weeks ago, I decided to turn my "holy anger" into fund raising idea:

PROBLEM: More than 16,000 MLS listings have expired or been canceled across Massachusetts over the past eight weeks, representing billions of dollars in potential sales.  (UPDATE:  Expired & canceled MLS listings totaled nearly 29,000 during the 4th quarter of 2007, see graph.)

OPPORTUNITY: If you’re one of those discouraged sellers, particularly one who buried a St. Joseph statue, consider the following Special Offers:

1. Statue buyback / trade-in:  cost refunded to anyone who becomes a fee-for-service or referral client of The Real Estate Cafe,

2. FREE "for sale by owner" seminar,

3. 20% off the cost of preparing a "listing agent report card" (if you want to select a new agent),

4. 1/3rd of the referral fee paid to The Real Estate Cafe rebated to the seller.

To honor St. Joseph, we ask participating sellers to decide how another third of our referral fee will be donated to charities and causes of their choice.  Think "Pay-it-forward" meets real estate rebates.  Our sample client letter and Referral Rebate Redistribution Worksheet shows you how our "community commission" works.

St. Joseph never said anything (at least nothing recorded in the Bible), but if he weren’t buried upside down, here’s what we think he’d say about today’s real estate market: 

Practical wisdom from St. Joseph:  A generation ago, President John F. Kennedy said, "…here on earth, God’s work must truly be our own."  So pull that statue out of the ground, resist the urge to bury your OLD real estate agent upside down, and decide whether you want to sell on your own or need a NEW agent to relist your property in 2008.  Either way, become one of the enlightened sellers who will save billions of dollars in 2008 and do God’s work by sharing a fraction of those savings with a charity or cause of your choice.

Posted in Savings & Rebates

Survey BLITZ for TV News: Boston housing prices in 2008 & beyond

Crystalball_2008A local TV news department is working on a story today about the housing market, so The Real Estate Cafe and have volunteered to conduct a quick consumer survey to inform their reporting. What do YOU think will happen to housing prices in 2008 & beyond, and if you are in the housing market, how will that influence your home buying plans for 2008?

The survey takes just a few minutes and we need your opinion AS SOON AS POSSIBLE to enrich tonight’s TV news!

Privacy Policy: Survey responses will be tabulated as a group without attribution to individual respondents. Your identity is confidential will not be shared with anyone.

Posted in Consumer surveys, Housing forecasts, In the News, Market trends, Price trends, Real Estate Bubble, Timing the market

Billions in savings: Will real estate consumers extend a helping hand?

GiveahandIt’s Christmas 2007, and I am visiting extended family in St. Louis, my beloved boyhood home. Missouri is the "Show Me" state, so it’s a fitting setting to ask how much money have real estate consumers really saved since McKinsey & Company predicted that industry restructuring could deliver $30 billion in annual savings ten years ago?

Last week, BusinessWeek’s real estate blog, Hot Property, reported that home buyers and sellers paid $55 billion in commissions in 2007, down $13 billion from the peak in 2005. They attributed the decline to falling sales and noted that consumers paid $19 Billion more than 2000 "largely because of the surge in home prices during the boom."

What caught my attention was an estimate that "‘for sale by owner’ sellers saved almost $9 billion in home value that they otherwise would have paid to real estate agents." That figure is just shy of the $10 billion in savings from real estate brokerage commissions predicted by McKinsey & Company in January 1998.

How much more money did home owners save by using a flat-fee MLS listings services in 2007, AND how much more money home buyers receive via real estate rebates?

My guess is that those savings also exceeded $1 billion in 2007, and will grow in the future. As a "Change Agent," my question is whether home buyers and sellers are willing to share some of those savings with charitable causes? (Think "pay-it-forward" meets real estate savings.)

ChangeAgents‘s goal is to create a voluntary coalition of money-saving real estate business models and to invite their clients to share fraction of their e-commerce savings with local, national, and international causes of their own choice. Here’s one example of a "community commission."

If you’re part of the new generation of real estate companies delivering billions in savings, or if you’re hoping to sell "for sale by owner" or receive a real estate rebate check in 2008, would you like to join our conversation about ePhilanthropy & Cause Marketing in real estate?

Please let us know what about your own dreams for 2008 and a better world.

Posted in "We" companies, ASAP: AIDS Shelter Alliance Partners, Change Agents, Commission Reform, Do-it-yourself, Fee-for-service, FSBO: Best Practices, FSBO: For Sale By Owner, In the News, Market trends, Savings & Rebates, Spiritual Home, Unbundling the Commission

Back to the future: Real estate search centers 2.0

Recafe_watercolor199507/30/08:  Pull quote re FSBO Cruise, more information coming soon.  Email for advance reservations & special offers for 1st 5 responses:

Looking for coop ad partners and sponsors for three experiments in 2008:  our ice cream van, FSBO cruise,
and voice-enabled listing search for cell phone users — another vision
of the office of the future!  As we wrote in September 2007,
traditional walk-in real estate offices may be obsolete, as evidenced by the closing of 14 Carlson GMAC offices in Massachusetts.

The lead story last night on Inman News was Real Estate Search Stores – Coming Soon?, a blog post yesterday by Joel Burslem, the visionary behind The Future of Real Estate Marketing.  His enthusiastic support for the concept has re-energized me to update The Real Estate Cafe’s business plan. (Part of me is also tempted to add some or all of our b-plan, old photos, and video on our wiki so others can learn from our decade plus experience, on and offline.)

As comments on Joel’s post reveal, there have been a number of experiments with walk-in real estate centers over the past 13 years including The Real Estate Cafe (Cambridge, MA), SOMA Living (San Francisco, CA), DeWolfe Direct (Cape Cod, MA), @Properties (Chicago, IL), etc.  We’ve maintained a running list of them in our business plan since approximately 1994. If there is interest, maybe we can share that content on The Real Estate Cafe’s wiki, and invite others, like Gabe Gross, to add local experiments we’ve missed, like the Cornish & Carey showroom in Palo Alto, CA, as well as their own learning experiences.

Having had two retail storefronts in the past, The Real Estate Cafe is now ready to experiment with the same vision "Portland Real Estate guy" added to Joel’s post, "the office of the future or now has 4 wheels not 4 walls. Equipped with a wireless laptop, blue tooth everything, and a Starbucks frequent customer card."

Looking for coop ad partners and sponsors for three experiments in 2008:  our ice cream van, FSBO cruise, and voice-enabled listing search for cell phone users — another vision of the office of the future!  As we wrote in September 2007, traditional walk-in real estate offices may be obsolete, as evidenced by the closing of 14 Carlson GMAC offices in Massachusetts. 

PS.  We’ve created a subgroup for anyone involved in a "real estate search store" — past, present, or proposed —  to network on our Ning site.

Posted in "We" companies, Change Agents, Do-it-yourself, Inside The Real Estate Cafe, Market trends, RECALL: Real Estate Consumer Alliance

Pre-testing consumer survey of housing prices in Greater Boston: 2008 to 2012

Over the past three years, The Real Estate Cafe has blogged about the
real estate bubble. Now we’d like to get YOUR opinion about what will
happen to housing prices in Greater Boston and an update on your home buying plans for

Right now, we’re only looking for a few respondents to help us PRE-TEST our survey.  Can you spare a few minutes?  Your feedback will help us better understand the market and better serve home buyers like you.

Privacy Policy: Survey responses will be tabulated as a group
without attribution to individual respondents. Your identify is
confidential will not be shared with anyone.

Posted in Bubble Hour, Consumer surveys, Housing forecasts, Real Estate Consumer Bill of Rights, Timing the market

Comment on America’s new debtor prisons

Pull quote on anyone who bought a home between 2004 and 2007 (check timeframe)

Posted in Uncategorized

Best site to identify commuting costs & hassles, in good weather & bad?

Earlier today, Bryan Person launched a wiki called Awful Commutes.  Right now, it seems to be focused on collecting stories from yesterday’s snow emergency in Boston which unexpectedly turned commuting into winter sport.  No need to limit the wiki to accounts of those 5 and 6 hour marathons.  Three years ago, I thought about moving to Lowell, MA but decided to stay in Cambridge because I could walk to so many important places in my life. My understanding is that helps potential homebuyers identify the most "walkable communities."

Posted in Defensive Homebuying, Do-it-yourself, Extreme Househunting, In the News, Mapping, Writing tools

Will homebuyers create their own “Twitter posses”?

Thanks to’s Idea Lab for introducing me to the phrase, "Twitter posse."  Their vision of reporters asking questions via Twitter reminds me of Real Estate Cafe blog posts about "home buyers turned embedded real estate reporters."  Three years ago, February 11, 2005, we said:

"…our goal is to help seed a new generation of "embedded real estate
reporters" or citizen journalists."

A more pointed question, "Will mobloggers pop the real estate bubble?" followed on April 17, 2005, four months before the housing market peaked in Massachusetts and a year before we invited bubble bloggers and citizen journalists to contribute to our Real Estate Bubble Map.

We’ve only begun to scratch the surface of potential uses for Twitter in real estate, so why limit brainstorming about Twitter Posses to reporters?  Just substitute the word "home buyer" for reporter in the original Idea Lab post and you’ll see that "homebuyer posses," "househunting posses," or "neighborhood posses" could become commonplace:

A potential home buyer could enlist a dozen or two dozen passionate, driven home buyers to serve as a kind of Twitter posse. Whenever she was about to tackle a big story or difficult interview, the home buyer could begin a mobile dialogue with fellow home buyers.

What I like about the concept: It brings a much-needed air of transparency to the house hunting process.  It expands the home buyer’s field of vision.

Combine that with interactive mapping, or add Twitter posts to our Real Estate Bubble Map, and consumers could create a powerful new way to share market insights by typing 140 character messages into their smart phones as they tour open houses, drive through new neighborhoods, etc.

Any home buyers or sellers in Boston or elsewhere already using Twitter?  Any real estate professionals, particularly buyer agents, already organizing "househunting posses"?  (Any developers want to work on the idea?)  Post examples below, or @realestatecafe on Twitter.  You can follow our latest Tweets on our blog, or

Posted in "We" companies, Bubble map, Extreme Househunting, Mapping, Moblogging in Real Estate, Real Estate Blogs: Best Practices, RECALL: Real Estate Consumer Alliance, Social Networking, Writing tools

TwitterVigil: World AIDS Day 2008



Home buyers and sellers, as well as anyone in the real estate industry, are invited to observe World AIDS Day 2008 by brainstorming about real estate fund raising
strategies for AIDS orphans.  Here’s one proposal / idea starter:  Develop local PledgeBanks
for communities to raise funds, and potentially challenge other
cities to friendly fund raising competitions.  Alumni groups can use to challenge their rivals
to annual fund raising competitons, see blog posts re: Million $ March.

Add you own ideas below, on the AIDS Shelter Alliance Partners wiki, on ChangeAgents, or via Twitter during our World AIDS Day TwitterVigil.  If you live in Boston, join us on today, December 1, 2007 at Medicine Wheel’s award-winning AIDS vigil.

Conversation starter:

Should local AIDS Shelter Alliance Partners create a badge so
home buyers and sellers can invite friends to sign an ASAPledge via their profiles on Facebook, LinkedIn, or any of the other cause networking sites
featured in the Wall Street Journal article entitled:  New Generation Reinvents Philanthropy?  Visit these links for more
information on the proposed ASAP demonstration project and real estate philanthropy in general.

Posted in Uncategorized
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